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Corrections Dept. Budget Barely Evolved From Holden's Original Recommendation

April 24, 2002
By: Javier Solano
State Capital Bureau

The budget for the Department of Corrections has barely evolved since the governor's original $571 million recommendation in January.

The budget, which came out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, reserves a total of $568 million for the department, $77 million of which would go to the furnishing of a new prison in Southeast Missouri that was completed last summer but has remained closed due to lack of funds.

The committee decided to fund Bonne Terre prison only as a reception and diagnostic center by January 2003, with only a few minimum security units. The rest of the units would open during Fiscal Year 2004, which starts July 2003.

The House had previously left the governor's proposal virtually untouched, despite efforts to use the money elsewhere. Some lawmakers wanted to dip into the department's budget to gather money for state employee salaries.

Rep. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, had introduced an amendment proposing an annual $600 increase for all state employees during the next fiscal year. The amendment would have been financed by using some of the $23 million allocated for the prison, which would delay its opening for at least one fiscal year.

The House voted down Bray's amendment 112-27. Opponents said the state is spending over $10 million a year for maintenance of an empty prison.